‘Unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people’: Equality Florida sues DeSantis over ‘Don’t Say Gay’

Ron DeSantis
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. William Buchanan)
Gov. Ron DeSantis, commander in chief of the Florida National Guard, addresses the crowd during a change of command ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center on April 6. During the ceremony U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert assumed command from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, who retired after 36 years of service

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is the leading defendant in a massive 80-page lawsuit by Equality Florida against the “Don’t Say Gay” law he signed this week. Roberta Kaplan, one of the nation’s top civil rights lawyers, who successfully argued the Supreme Court case that effectively overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is the lead attorney on the case.

“Florida House Bill 1557 (widely known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law) is an unlawful attempt to stigmatize, silence, and erase LGBTQ people in Florida’s public schools. It seeks to do so by imposing a sweeping, vague ban covering any instruction on ‘sexual orientation and gender identity,’ and by constructing a diffuse enforcement scheme designed to maximize the chilling effect of this prohibition,” the lawsuit begins.

"Through H.B. 1557, Florida would deny to an entire generation that LGBTQ people exist and have equal dignity. This effort to control young minds through state censorship—and to demean LGBTQ lives by denying their reality—is a grave abuse of power. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that LGBTQ people and families are at home in our constitutional order. The State of Florida has no right to declare them outcasts, or to treat their allies as outlaws, by punishing schools where someone dares to affirm their identity and dignity,” it continues.

The lawsuit, first reported by Reuters legal columnist Alison Frankel, cites both the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It also blasts DeSantis and his far-right press secretary, Christina Pushaw.

“Governor DeSantis also made clear that the bill’s limitation on ‘sexual instruction’ does not apply to instruction on heterosexuality and cisgender identities. Rather, he asked rhetorically, ‘How many parents want their kids to have transgenderism or something injected into classroom instruction?'”

“Governor DeSantis’s press secretary, Christine Pushaw, confirmed this understanding. She called H.B. 1557 an ‘Anti-Grooming Bill’ and said that ‘If you’re against the Anti-Grooming Bill, you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.’ Charitably read, Pushaw’s statement implied that even discussing LGBTQ issues or acknowledging LGBTQ people’s existence entices students to ‘become’ LGBTQ; less charitably and perhaps more accurately read, it is a gross assertion that school personnel who discuss LGBTQ issues with students are akin to molesters.”

The lawsuit asks the court to block the implementation and enforcement of HB1557, the “Don’t Say Gay” law, damages, and other costs.


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